Google may be going after Apple with music device

Google files documents with FCC over testing a consumer home entertainment device

With a wireless streaming music device reportedly in the works, Google may be getting deeper into the home entertainment arena, according to reports.

Google has developed a prototype of a device designed to stream music via a home's Wi-Fi network, though it could expand the product's capacity in the future. Citing unnamed sources, the New York Times reported that the device is set to be sold to consumers as a branded product.

The move could be a direct salvo at Apple. In November, Google launched a challenge to Apple's iTunes service when it opened an online music store called Google Music, where users may buy music and upload and store up to 20,000 songs for free.

Google could be looking to get a piece of the lucrative online music market, which Apple dominates with its iTunes store and its array of iPod devices.

If the streaming music device becomes a reality, Google would have the ability to let users buy and store music, and it could sell them the devices they can stream it on.

Google declined to comment on reports about the device.

Over the past year or so, Google has made its designs on consumers' living rooms clear with a lot of talk about Google TV. But then talk turned to a streaming device when the company filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission. In the application, Google refers to a new "entertainment device" and said it planned to test the product for six months, from Jan. 17 to July 17.

"Users will connect their device to home Wi-Fi networks and use Bluetooth to connect to other home electronics equipment," the document states. The company also noted that Google employees will be testing the device in company facilities in Mountain View, Calif., Los Angeles, Cambridge, Mass., and New York City, and in their own homes.

Dan Olds, an analyst with Gabriel Consulting Group, said it won't be easy for Google to establish itself in the music and home entertainment markets.

"There are already devices that will stream music via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth throughout your home, although they haven't seen a lot of adoption yet," Olds said. "The market right now, in terms of hardware revenue, is pretty damned small potatoes for a company the size of Google. So why would Google care? This new device could possibly be a project that they've inherited from the Motorola purchase."

With Google reportedly testing this new hardware, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the company to open new testing labs. On Monday, a report on MercuryNews.com stated that Google is working on a multifaceted $120-million construction project at its Mountain View corporate headquarters, and the project is said to include work on new or "previously secret hardware testing labs."

In an emailed response about the project, Google said, "Just as we continuously work to improve our products, it's important to iterate on our work space to keep us productive. That's why we are adding additional meeting and work space to our campus in Mountain View."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or on Google+, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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